Aberlour 12, 2006-2018, Barrel 102, 56.8% – Archives

An older review today. Lately I’ve been emptying some bottles and a LOT of samples, ever since the beginning of the year. A couple dozen that I’ve gone through since were not reviewed here yet, and I even found some that I apparently reviewed in the past but hadn’t remembered.

So, today, a 12 year old Aberlour from Archives from back when I apparently didn’t just buy anything from Archives that falls within my price range.

Image from Whiskybase

Aberlour tends to be on the sweet side, and I tend to like sweet whiskies slightly less than the more hearty ones. However, when Aberlour is good, it is quite glorious. Let’s find out where this little Speyside whisky sits!

Very modern, very oak forward. Hints of vanilla and baking spices. A whiff of coconut, dry as well.

The palate is rather strong, and fairly generic. It still does tick all the boxes of a whisky that should be popular. Lots of oak for a 2006 vintage, lots of vanilla and sponge-cakiness.

The finish is more complex with a shift to more spices, more wood influence without it being all about wood itself.

This whisky tastes like a very modern, very generic bourbon cask matured single malt. There’s quite a lot of vanilla and coconut, some to-be-expected spices and pastry notes. Nothing out of the ordinary, and it could also have come from a handful of other Speyside distilleries. It’s absolutely not a bad whisky, just quite generic.

And it’s modern. By that I mean it tastes a bit like it was made to taste like this with early-on cask selection. Getting a very active cask for new make spirit to direct it into a direction like this that has many fans. Contrary to randomly selecting casks when they’re ready and taste great.


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Peatside 10, 2011-2021, ex-Madeira Cask 5541, 53.2% – Kintra Whisky

Instead of ‘Tomorrow’ this review shows up 6 days after the previous Kintra Whisky. This one is an undisclosed whisky from a peated distillate. If memory serves even the bottler, Erik Molenaar, doesn’t know the distillery this whisky was made at.

Image from Whiskybase

Suffice to say that it’s not an Islay peated whisky, and personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be a Benriach, due to that fitting the character and the use of unorthodox casks.

Upfront there’s heathery smoke with a bit of salinity, but it’s not overly coastal. White chocolate with a hint of of rosemary. Hay and straw, a little bit of charcoal too.

Pretty sharp and not with a lot of aging to it. Lots of sharp alcohol, surprisingly so for the ABV. Peat, some salt, straw, heather, rosemary. Almost no sweetness.

The finish is a lot softer. Quite short, with mostly smoke and barley.

It’s quite sweet, due to the Madeira casks, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. The heathery smoke is quite nice and the herbaceous notes are too. Quite a ‘French’ dram from a flavor perspective. With this costing about € 60 it’s well priced too, but if that would be a tenner or two more expensive I wouldn’t be as happy.

As in, it’s a nice whisky for its price point, but it’s a bit lacking in complexity to be more expensive.


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Lagavulin 11, Charred Oak Casks, 46% – Offerman 3rd Edition

So, finally these have become available in The Netherlands. The previous two batches weren’t and that annoyed me to no end.

Me, in a non-specialist bottle-shop
Image from Whiskybase

And yes, I’m a bit of a Nick Offerman fan, and not just because of Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation. Based on his books, and some of the talks he did (see Youtube for that) he’s a champion and we should have more people like him being celebrities instead of socialites like The Kardashians.

Anyway, Lagavulin. Celebrity involvement. Let’s go!

Apart from the obvious rich, peaty smoke, there’s a bit of a roasty note. Dark grains on top of earthy smoke and coastal salinity. Some vanilla and charred wood in the background.

The palate brings a bit of bite, but is slightly more thin than I expected. Charred oak, roasted malt, beach bonfires. Quite earthy with a slightly sooty smoke.

The finish veers back to a more rich approach. Still dark, sooty and smoky, but with a hint of vanilla syrup. Quite long with a bit of black pepper on the back of your tongue.

I like that the charred oak gives a new dimension to the whisky without it diminishing the original character of Lagavulin. Especially since I tend to really like that character. And yes, in the final score there might be a point for Nick Offerman, but I think it’s a really good special edition of an already great single malt.


Still available for just under € 100

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Unnamed Orkney 16, 2006-2022, Refill Butt DRU17/A65#4, 46% – The Ultimate

It’s been a while since I tried anything by The Ultimate. Generally I don’t really buy into the brand since I often find the whisky a little bit lackluster. Often bottled too young, under ten years old. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the combination of the distilleries, and the age, and the fact that I’ve been let down by quite a few from this bottler don’t make me jump up when something new is released.

Image from Whiskybase

However, undisclosed Orkney, AKA Highland Park, is a bit of a difference. In this case I got a sample from a friend, although I was eyeing this bottle myself as well. As in, 16 year old Highland Park for just a blip over € 50 is a steal in any case, and I don’t think Highland Park makes whiskies that are bad enough to be disappointing at that price point.

Light sherry, light peat smoke. Peaches, heather, lighter dried fruits. Very coastal, and very typical of Highland Park. Quite a bit of oak, dried fruits, marram grass.

A bit of bite with chili heat. There’s oak, pepper, a slight bitter note with peach stones and almonds. Salinity and reeds, dried grass, sherry.

The finish is very gentle with wood, peach and heather. A bit of smoke, but not sea-weed-y. Quite sweet with hints of sherry and a bit of peach syrup.

A bit on the sweet side, but lovely flavors. I love, as expected, that there’s a whiff of Highland peat and heather to counter the sweetness a little bit. If that wasn’t there, this review would have panned out differently.

But, lovely fruitiness, lovely mix of distillery and cask characters. Good stuff!


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Taking Flight with the Springbank Stallions

Steady contributor Tom went to Campbeltown in January, and of course, he did a nice write-up for us/you/me! Let’s see what this tasting is about, in which they tasted the first sixteen (!) Society bottlings!

Bram van Glabbeek of WhiskyNerds fame is in most whisky circles renowned for his knowledge of and passion for Springbank. As part of the Springbank Stallions he puts his name under memorable get-togethers with connoisseurs and whisky lovers from all over Europe. Coordinated by organizer and passionate host Johan Andersson, the Stallions gathered in January 2023 to taste the first 16 bottlings of the Springbank Society. As a participant of this tasting, these are my impressions. These notes are based on two successive 2-hour tastings, eight expressions in both flights, and taken from 1,5 cl samples. The scores are far from secured in controlled environment (quite the opposite actually…).

The tasting was guided by Bram and Ranald Watson, Director of Sales and Marketing at J&A Mitchell.

  1. Springbank 8 yo – 56 % (fresh sherry hogshead)
    Starts with a distinct rum note. Also a nice note of vinegar. A nice woody influence. Exceptionally smooth and balanced. According to some experienced tasters, this developed very well in the bottle.
    Score: 89 points. (25 pounds when it was released…)
  2. Springbank 22 yo – 46 % (bourbon)
    After the fat sherry of the opening whisky this one feels extremely thin, delicate, like seeing a ballet dancer perform after a kickboxing match. Both are excellent. Bit more shy on the nose, but fresh and raisiny.
    Score: 90 points
  3. Longrow 8 yo – 59,9 % (refill sherry butt)
    A bottle that most remember as being quite sulphury. I don’t detect it now, which is good news. Clean peat with a layer of sweetness. The taste is much more impressive. Dark chocolate, good smoke, mint but all rather integrated so nothing gets dominant. Bit harsh, but water helps.
    Score: 87 points.
  4. Hazelburn 8 yo – 58,7 % (refill sherry butt)
    When you once picked it up, the rum note keeps popping up in the three sherry casks that we had thus far. We agree there is indeed quite a strong consistency, no matter which spirit went in there. With water this dram releases a nice fruity character, but the overall impression is that it is a bit dry and as a result harsh.
    Score: 85 points.
  5. Springbank 14 yo – 55,3 % (bourbon hogshead)
    I would expect to turn towards a more classic Springbank with chalk and wet pebbles. This leans toward spicy bitter notes, chocolate, and quite a nice dash of vanilla in there. Interesting, a strong oily note in the finish. The stuff dreams are made of.
    Score: 91 points
  6. Springbank 9 yo – 60,2 % (fresh rum butt)
    Very drinkable at this high abv. Nosing is a bit more difficult but the classic fruity notes are there. I love the mellow banana flavors of this one, and if you’re patient enough the Springbank character does come through. This is fun to play with.
    Score: 87 points.
  7. Springbank 17 yo – 51,5 % (port hogshead)
    Full maturation in a port hogshead. Now that is frightening… but somehow it works. It has a broad spectrum of red fruits and no bad off notes. Or maybe, on the finish there is a sulphury note but I am not bothered by it. It adds a nice edge on an otherwise fruity dram. Complex and not for the faint of heart.
    Score: 90 points.
  8. Springbank 11 yo – 48,7 % (sherry butt + hogshead)
    A special Society bottling for the 180th anniversary of Springbank. Cask 18 and cask 28 were vatted. You figure out where you have to be in 2028. This is a rather nutty expression. A tad bitter but very fulfilling. Not a true highlight, almost a daily dram.
    Score: 86 points.
  9. Longrow 12 yo – 57,6 % (Fino sherry butt)
    Dark color for a Fino. Good classic grapes on the nose. The peat and sherry make for an almost toxic mix resulting in meaty notes. Clean and smooth finish. The vintage comes from a time the distillers started maturing more stuff in different sherry casks, not only oloroso. This Fino is very muscled. Good stuff.
    Score: 91 points.
  10. Hazelburn 8 – 55,7 % (fresh bourbon barrel)
    Rather light after the sherry violence. It does have a nice clean feel to it, underlining that bourbon maturation is as good as it gets for Campbeltown malts. Nice soft fruits, vanilla, good kick on the finish.
    Score: 85 points.
  11. Springbank 14 yo – 57,1 % (sherry pipe)
    Nobody knows what a sherry pipe is but the result is a rather red-fruity character. Vintage 1995 and nobody wrote down any details about the cask. That’s probably why it got bottled for the Society. The nerds like this. With water a bit more unbalanced. It’s good, not great.
    Score: 85 points.
  12. Springbank 11 yo – 57,9 % (recharred sherry butt, local barley)
    The first Local Barley Springbank since the 1960s to be bottled. This has an incredible freshness to it, despite the re-charred character of the cask. Also crispy bacon, leaving no doubt about the cask impact on the spirit. Again a meaty example with a rather burned, caramel finish. I am a bit split on this one. Lots of off notes too, and good sides as well, so it depends on mood.
    Score: 88 points.
  13. Longrow 10 yo – 53,9 % (fresh sherry butt)
    Nice dark chocolate character, the Latin American kind. Dark pepper, good peat, all in perfect balance. It goes into a fight with you, and you don’t mind losing. Perfect in its straightforwardness. Love it.
    Score: 90 points.
  14. Springbank 14 yo – 55,7 % (port butt and refill bourbon butt)
    Don’t ask me about these weird cask names and sizes. Springbank does not mind mingling it up a bit. Anyway, it’s rather rubbery in character and I have trouble enjoying it. For masochists only.
    Score: 82 points.
  15. Springbank 15 yo – 56,5 % (refill bourbon & fresh madeira)
    Five years finish in madeira. Still very recognizable Springbank but the finish puts a nice layer on it. Doesn’t feel very integrated but still manages to make impact.
    Score: 88 points.
  16. Springbank 12 yo – 53,5 % (fresh port)
    The port cask (a hogshead apparently) doesn’t really feel. It leaves a bitter chocolate footprint. As is true for all Society bottlings, they are very fragrant. Nice sweetness to this one. Chocolate on the finish. The integration is fabulous. Good end to this tasting.
    Score: 89 points.

So there, that was round 1, to be continued in 2024 for another 16 expressions. We concluded this mammoth tasting with a sample of the newest Society bottling, which will be a 5 years old Springbank at 100 proof. Very reminiscent of the new make we tasted earlier straight from the still. Fruity and fresh, not hiding its youth but proudly displaying it. A bold decision that will certainly stir opinion upon release!

About Tom van Engelen

Tom is a whisky enthusiast since the beginning of this millennium, not only savoring the taste of the drink but also the soul of it. Malt whisky from Scotland therefor remains his favorite focus. As former editor of the oldest Dutch whisky magazine he found a passion in writing about whisky too, with a mild preference for the nostalgic. He lives between the big rivers of the Netherlands with his wife Dasha, daughter Sasha and cat Amour.

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Caperdonich 25, 1997-2022, Hogshead 30900, 56.2% – The Duchess

With a couple of rum releases that are coming up on this here blog soon, and now this Caperdonich, it seems that The Duchess is back at it in regard to bottling quality booze! I’m not sure if it was my wrong perception, but it seemed to quiet down from the Naarden bottler.

But now, all of a sudden, there’s this 25 year old single malt from a distillery that has been closed for 21 years. Quite a decent age, and it seems the whisky from this era of ‘Glen Grant 2’ is improving with time, since initially those Caperdonichs were not regarded with awe, a decade or so ago.

Image from Best of Wines

Of course, the label is done by Hans Dillesse once again, and this time the bottling has gone into the ‘Game & Wildlife Series’. The fifth whisky to go into this range, after a Bunnahabhain, Ailsa Bay, Ben Nevis and a Glenallachie.

There’s a maturity, even though it’s still a rather light whisky. Lots of white oak and some fruit. There’s some old pear, baked apple, a hint of banana too. Quite a ‘fruit pie’ sweetness, so tinned peaches too.

The palate isn’t overly sharp although there’s a bit of white pepper. Quite some dry oak shavings, and lots of fruit. Far more than on the nose, or slightly more fresh. Peach, pear, baked apples. Some baking spices too, but not too strong. Toasted oak, and some molasses like sweetness.

The finish is very classical with lots of oak, old white oak. Peach and apple and pear, some cinnamon and caramel. Fruit pie, with classical barley and oak notes.

I love how gentle this one has gotten in 25 years. Even though the alcohol percentage is still quite high, it arrives very smoothly and never really bites. It’s a complex whisky that has improved with age, to show lovely fruity notes on a rustic backdrop. I think rustic is a good word for this whisky. It never is modern in any way!


Available at Best of Wines (and some other shops) for € 500 (It’s a closed distillery, after all)

Thanks for the sample, Best of Wines!

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Balblair 8, 2012-2021, Refill Sherry Hogshead 3237, 57.3% – Kintra Whisky

Kintra used to be a rather well known Dutch bottler. Well known amongst whisky geeks that is, but still. But, and it’s anything but illogical, Erik Molenaar has been focusing on his Wagging Finger distillery in Deventer ever since that got up and running. More so than on the bottling side of things.

With an eye for quality and the rising prices of everything whisky-related, this looks like a smart change of perspective to me!

Two years ago he did release some bottles. A couple of them with The Whisky Mercenary from Belgium, and two of them by himself. This is one of them. I think the other one will follow tomorrow.

Image from Whiskybase

Ever since re-visiting Balblair distillery in October, I’ve been going through this bottle a little bit more quickly than before. And yes, this is another one that was bought during covid for the ‘Stay the Fuck Home’ tastings.

Last weekend, during a couple of days in the Ardennes with my in-laws it was time to finish the bottle, among quite a few others, to downsize my collection of open bottles a little bit. Of course, a visit to Shoppingcenter Massen counteracted that a little bit, but still. Net progress was made in that regard!

Oloroso sherry and a lot of strong alcohol. More oak thsn I’d expect for an eight year old dram. Very sweet with notes of pound cake, soaked in orange liqueur.

Again, a lot of alcohol, with the heat tgat cones with it. It does show what we would call ‘dirty sherry’. A bit of clowing sweetness, pencils, orange syrup, slightly funky sherry notes.

Lots of funky sherry again, lots of moldy hessian and old, wet oak.

It’s not really a typical Balblair, since the cask influence is quite strong and trumps the spirit. However, it’s a very nice whisky. Not overly complex, but with a bit more funkiness than normal. And I like that funkiness.


Still for sale in The Netherlands and going between € 60 and € 70

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Ledaig 13, 2008-2021, PX Sherry Quarter Cask, 50% – Claxton’s Exploration Series

This Ledaig, the peated version of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, was bottled for the Netherlands, just under two years ago. Immediately upon release it started scoring really high marks, which isn’t too surprising for an affordable whisky that is both peated and matured on a sherry cask.

Of course, as has been part of the introduction of many a review here, this was initially bought for the ‘Stay the Fuck at Home’ tastings’. A tasting like that was done with about 10 people and that doesn’t exactly empty a bottle.

Some samples were sold, after the tasting, as was the modus operandi at the time. With this being a peated and sherried whisky, I didn’t want to go through the entire bottle by doing that so I kept a bit for myself. By now the level of whisky is nearing the bottom of the bottle, and with a weekend away in sight, it’s high time for a review!

Image from Whiskybase

Well, this definitely is sherry and peat. The sweeter PX style, not overly complex. The peat is of a rather coastal style, with a briny quality to it. Quite some oak and dark dried fruits.

The palate is rather gentle. I guess the ABV is held in check by the rather pushed oak influence. It’s quite sweet with dried dates and prunes. Sooty and briny smoke, lots of soft oak and a syrupy sweetness.

The finish has a bit more bite, but only a bit. Quite some sherry and oak again, really amped up compared to what you’d expect of a 13 year old whisky.

So, generally, sherry and peat is a really good combination. It doesn’t work in all situations, but in the ones that it does, it’s really good. Generally, though, it makes for good whisky, but not the most complex whisky. Especially when said whisky isn’t thirty years old. It tends to be fairly straight forward, but very tasty at the same time.

This one is no exception in that regard. It does what is says on the tin and it does it very well. Of course, this sold out rather quickly, but I wouldn’t even have been upset if I had gotten two bottles! It’s a lovely drinking whisky with a not-too-high ABV and lovely flavors. A very well selected cask by High Spirits, and one I’ll gladly finish with my in-laws soon!


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Talisker 8 and 11, the Special Releases from 2021 and 2022

I kind of like Talisker. Always have, probably always will. However, I don’t like ‘everything’ Talisker. As in, their NAS releases, Storm, Dark Storm, Port Ruighe, Skye and probably some others that I can’t remember from the top of my head are a bit pointless to me. Of course, they sell, so there’s a market for them, but I just can’t really give a crap.

Now then, when they release a special one in autumn, like Diageo does every year, and there’s sort-of-affordable Talisker in the mix, I tend to pick up a bottle for sharing. This is how I ended up with both the 2021 and 2022 release.

Coincidentally to me, I didn’t realize their peating approaches were opposites for these releases, one is from heavily peated stocks, and the other from a significantly lighter approach.

That sounds like a nice head-to-head, so here it goes!

Talisker 8, Heavily Peated Refill Casks, 59.7% – Special Release 2021

Image from Whiskybase

There’s quite some vanilla from the start. After that, there’s brine and, strangely, a hint of aniseed and licorice. Warming smoke and oak, with a gentle sweet touch.

It bites with the high ABV, and the typical note of black pepper is present too. A sharp oakiness, and a sharp sort of smoke.

The finish ramps up the coastal flavors and salinity hugely. A lot of brine, sandy beaches and salt.

While this is a nice enough whisky, I’m a bit confused by it. It’s a bit like Talisker is trying to imitate Ardbeg or Ledaig, with the amped up peating levels. It doesn’t really suit the style all that well. I think the whisky itself is a bit too subtle for the peating levels. The massive ABV doesn’t really help either, and makes for a rather hot and peppery whisky. Still, as said, nice enough. It still is quite Talisker like and the note of aniseed on the nose was nice!


Still available for about € 90-ish

Talisker 11, Lightly Peated Stocks, 55.1% – Special Release 2022

Image from Whiskybase

A very subtle smokiness, which (maybe this is inverted from reality) reminds me of Torabhaig. The smokiness is quite light and a bit more crisp than in regular Talisker. Some salinity, smoldering embers, marram grass and wet tree bark. Some ash too.

The palate is quite dry and spicy. There’s white pepper, oak shavings, straw. The smokiness is here too. Even though it’s supposed to be lightly peated, it tastes like it’s ‘differently peated’. Embers, marram grass, quite coastal, but also rather foresty.

The finish is more mellow than I expected. Still dry, and there’s definitely some bite left. It’s also a bit more spirity, which is anything but a bad thing. Peat, earthy notes. Marram grass and washed up trees.

This lower level of smokiness suits the whisky much better, as does the slightly less hot ABV. There’s more room for the spirit to give more nuanced notes, and makes it more representative of the Isle of Skye. More foresty notes, more wood like and such. It still retains the coastal notes as well, and that makes for a nice combination of flavors!


Available for about € 110

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Glen Moray 11, 2008-2020, Refill Oloroso Puncheon, 64.9% – SMWS (‘Stirs your soul’)

Whether it stirs your soul or puts a blowtorch to it is to be seen. A whisky at 65% alcohol is not something to take lightly, and especially not as a first dram of the day. Of course, I didn’t, luckily the ABV was on the sample’s label.

Image from Whiskybase

Glen Moray is a bit of an interesting one. Depending on which way the coin falls it can be a lovely fruity dram with a lot of depth, but it can also be a fairly generic whisky that could be anything.

I know, in the past, that SMWS bottled some really good whiskies from Glen Moray, but that was years ago and those were 30+ years old. This is a very different beasty. Let’s find out.

Burnt toast with apricot jam. Roasty and fruity scents, so to say. A very gentle spirit that leaves all the room for the cask. A hint of cheese, and candle wax too.

Well, that ABV sure is there, even after a couple of drams. Holy shit. Roasty notes with a lot of boozy heat, and some fairly generic fruitiness. Some sherry notes, slightly yeasty, but mostly some fruit.

The finish is gone almost immediately. The flavors linger at about 5% of their initial intensity.

Weird stuff. Probably a too active cask for longer maturation, but way too strong to be ‘tasty’. The alcohol trumps everything else that the cask didn’t take care of. As in, a lot of suppression of flavors happens, and there’s just not much happening except for heat.


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